School-move plan approved

June 8, 2012
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The City Council approved by a 12-1 vote on May 23 the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) controversial school-move plan.

The plan calls for several schools to move, including the Mission Hill K-8 School going to the now-vacant Agassiz School building at 20 Child St. in Jamaica Plain. Margarita Muñiz Academy, a new bilingual school, will join the K-8 school at the Agassiz. The Mission Hill K-8 School will retain its name after it moves to JP.

New Mission High School, which currently shares the 67 Alleghany St. building with the K-8 school, is moving to the now-vacant Hyde Park High School building.

The K-8 school leaving Mission Hill has angered many residents and they had an online petition trying to prevent the move. Councilor Mike Ross, who represents Mission Hill and part of Hyde Square, was the lone dissenting vote.

Ross had added an amendment that would have excluded the K-8 school from the plan, but that was defeated by an 8-5 vote. Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents Egleston Square, said he voted for the amendment, but “sadly it did not pass.” He criticized BPS for pitting different school communities against each other.

“I think BPS needs to take a hard and important look at planning,” said Jackson.

The councilor said BPS needs to have a vision for five or 10 years that takes into account facilities and the new school-assignment plan. He said the controversial Mission Hill K-8 School move shows how important long-term planning is.

In the end, Jackson did vote for the overall school-move plan, saying that it affects over 10 schools, including the new Dudley Street Neighborhood School opening in the old Emerson School building in his district. He noted the funding needed to be approved so the schools could be up and running for next school year.

“It was a difficult vote, but one I had to take,” said Jackson.

Councilor Matt O’Malley, who lives in and represents JP, said he voted in favor on the plan because it brings the high-performing K-8 school to the Agassiz building. But, he said it’s a tough loss for Mission Hill and criticized BPS.

“I don’t think the whole process was handled as well as it should have been,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley said he looks forward to the fall when the now-vacant Agassiz building opens with “great teachers, great students and great parents.”

Mayor Thomas Menino, who spoke during a sit-down lunch with reporters the day after the council vote, said the plan is about giving young people the opportunity to go to better schools.

“It’s about the common good,” said Menino.

He added later, “Some people wanted to play politics. I won’t play politics with kids.”

When asked about residents’ concern about the Agassiz building having environmental problems, Menino responded those have been taken care of and he wouldn’t send children into a building that had bad environmental qualities.

“Agassiz was sick,” said Menino. “It was sick a few years ago. We gave it a couple pills and it went away.”

The Agassiz School was controversially closed last year. The building has undergone reconstruction to address environmental concerns, including questions of air quality and mold. Some of the improvements include a new roof and windows and repairing exterior walls.